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Poem Analysis

“As I Grew Older,” by Langston Hughes carries a theme that no matter what stands in the way of someone’s
dream you can always find your dream and fight for it. Throughout the poem, Hughes refers to different
symbols to show the barriers between blacks and whites in society.
In the first stanza of this poem, Hughes writes that his dream was: “in front of me, bright like a sun—My
dream.” Hughes’s dream is the dream of a non racist society in America and the freedom for anyone to do what
they choose and be treated equally. At the same time, Hughes’s dream can also be treated as Hughes’s future.
Hughes’s dream first appeared to be “bright like the sun” because when you’re a child, you aren’t aware of
what’s actually happening around you. Children don’t know the true reasons for why their community is the
way that it is and Hughes’s didn’t understand either. Hughes’s dream was bright because he wasn’t old enough
to realize that there would be things in his way keeping him from his dream. Hughes’s dream describes how he
wishes to have a good life and raise a family without the conflicts that he’s experienced in his own childhood.
Also, it’s important to note that Hughes’s says “My dream” to show possession of the idea he holds. This is later
related to other possessions Hughes’s describes in his poem. Another reason why Hughes’s writes “my dream”
is because Hughes’s dream was different from a white man at the time. Facing discrimination throughout his
life, Hughes’s continues to describe racism when Hughes’s writes “And then a wall rose, rose slowly, slowly,
between me and my dream.” The wall Hughes’s refers to is the wall of white men and how they dominated life
in the United States. This wall “slowly” blocked his dream. Hughes’s describes the blockage as slow to show
the many small efforts people used to keep America segregated.
In the third stanza, Hughes’s writes that the wall “rose until it touched the sky--. The wall. Shadow. I am black. I
lie down in the shadow.” There are many things going on in this stanza that illustrates Hughes’s place in society
at that time and the extent of racism. The audience should notice that Hughes’s first writes that the wall rose up
to touch the sky in a single line but he then breaks up the words in the following lines to act as if the action was
taking place with the words. First Hughes’s describes what is moving up and he writes on a single line, “The
Wall.” Then Hughes’s continues to describe what happens when the wall is in place and that’s “Shadow.” In the
third single line Hughes’s confirms (if not already known), “I am black.” This simple description is then
followed by a single line with, “I lie down in the shadow.” “The Wall” that Hughes’s describes is a symbol of
the white people who were racist against blacks. This wall cast a “shadow” over Hughes and this shadow
represents the restrictions and laws that were made in discrimination against black people. Once the shadow is
created, Hughes’s writes: “I am black,” which is literally the current state of his shadowed atmosphere but more
so the fact that Hughes’s is African American. Then he tells the reader that he’s lying down in the shadow. This
shadow is describing the lower conditions that African American’s had to live with in the midst of segregated
America. Hughes’s ends this stanza by saying “No longer the light of my dream before me, Above me.” Since
his dream is no longer above him, the dream is beneath him. This can be interpreted as saying that the dream of
freedom and equality is unrealistic or it’s saying that the dream has been temporarily disabled because of the
wall created by white people.
In order to break free of his restrictions, Hughes describes his “dark hands” that will be able to “break through
the wall,” and “find his dream. The dark hands Hughes describes is his culture and his own people. Hughes
believes that with perseverance that African Americans can break through the wall created by white people and
find their dreams. His dark hands can be seen as the color of the skin but also the fact that the blacks were
enslaved by many whites in the early history of America. These dark hands can be interpreted to be hands that
have bleed and worked and covered with dirt to show that hard work and constant repression of black society
has made them strong.
In the last stanza, Hughes says that these hands can: “help me shatter this darkness, to smash this night, to break
this shadow into a thousand lights of the sun, into a thousand whirling dreams of sun!” “Shatter” adds more
emphasis to Hughes description of how African Americans will prevail through civil rights and by breaking the
shadow into a thousand lights of the sun the blacks are breaking the restrictions cast by white people and
making society equal as a whole. The darkness is the shadow that was created by the wall that grew taller and
taller. Hughes is able to break the darkness and let light in through the wall. He uses imagery to describe his
own ability to overcome prejudice in his society. The image of a wall not only represents Caucasians but also
the fact that usually, barriers from one society to another are made up of walls. The wall stands as Hughes
opponent and he’s able to defeat it him. Langston Hughes ends his poem by describing the dreams to be
coming: “of sun!” to show that his dream may still be too far to reach but when reached will shine brighter than
all of the dreams ever to come true. The light from the sun is seen by Hughes again and it’s as if he and his
dreams were reunited.

Art Analysis
The picture is black and white not only to go with the theme of the anthology but also because in Langston
Hughes’s “As I Grew Older” poem, it deals with the separation in black and white society. I chose to draw a
wall because it was the most significant picture I thought of when reading the poem. The wall in the picture
grows slowly taller and taller. The sunlight from the top corner of the picture becomes blocked. The different
height of the walls shows the different obstacles that Hughes’s had to go through to get to his dream. Even
though the walls are blocking most of the light from the sun, small rays of light are still coming through. This is
to show that Langston Hughes’s was determined, even when there was discrimination to take his dream away,
he never gave up. His prevailed through segregation and found his dream of equality.
As I Grew Older By Langston Hughes

It was a long time ago.


I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun--
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky--
The wall.
Shadow.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!